Wisconsin Right-To-Work Law Gets Support Against Legal Challenge

REUTERS/Las VegasSun/Steve Marcus

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A prominent worker choice group filed a legal opinion against a union lawsuit Tuesday in defense of a right-to-work law passed in Wisconsin last year.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed the policy into law in March 2015, despite adamant opposition from the labor movement. The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), in response, claimed in a lawsuit the measure was unconstitutional. The National Right to Work Foundation (NRTW) filed a legal brief in defense of the law.

“IUOE bosses are asking a United States District Court to reject over 60 years of legal precedent,” NRTW President Mark Mix said in a statement. “Wisconsin’s Right to Work law should not be overturned on the basis of an outrageous and rejected legal theory advanced by union lawyers, who are attempting to create a constitutional ‘right’ for union bosses to extort money from workers forced to accept unions’ so-called representation.”

Federal law allows states to prohibit agreements requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment. IUOE Local 139 and 420 claims the Wisconsin right-to-work law goes beyond that by also prohibiting service fees. The union lawsuit claims its unconstitutional because unions are essentially forced to represent workers without any reimbursement.

Unions that get voted in as the exclusive representative for a workplace are required by law to represent all workers regardless of whether they pay dues or not. They can become member-only unions, but then they lose the right to have monopoly privileges over a workplace against other labor groups.

NRTW counters the lawsuit in its legal brief by noting the challenge doesn’t standup to case precedence. Federal court and state appellate courts have upheld similar right-to-work laws in other states for roughly sixty years. The legal brief was filed on behalf of five workers who claim to be negatively impacted by mandatory union dues.

No employee can be forced to join a union but in states without right-to-work laws they can be required to pay service fees. The fair-share fee can only cover the cost of representation and not other union activities like political expensive. Right-to-work laws in other states tend to also forbid service fees as well as typical union dues.

The Wisconsin right-to-work law only escalated tensions between Walker and labor unions which began to grow from a plan, known as Act 10, to overhaul state labor policy in 2011. Act 10 allows state employees to choice whether they wanted to pay union dues. It also required public unions to hold a renewal vote every couple of years to determine if workers still wanted them.

The two laws became huge issues for unions when Walker decided to run for president. Walker officially announced his run July 13 but eventually ended it Sept. 21. He proposed a plan Sept. 15 to rein in union power nationally. Unions claim the reforms caused his campaign to fail.

IUOE did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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